Whether Missouri will play in the postseason for a school-record tying fifth straight season is not a question, but there is much suspense surrounding the Tigers’ postseason fate.
After Missouri’s disappointing 79-58 loss to No. 8 Kansas State in the Big 12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday in Dallas, Missouri can do nothing but wait and see where it will head next week.
The Tigers will learn their destination at 4 p.m. Sunday when the NCAA Tournament’s field of 64 teams is unveiled. The Tigers are hoping to make their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2001, when they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
If Missouri is not invited to the NCAA Tournament, it will settle for its fourth appearance in the WNIT in the past five years.
Missouri’s loss to Kansas State snapped a four-game winning streak, but the Tigers are 17-12 and hope their strong finish coupled with the 12th toughest schedule in the country according to the WBCA and a No. 39 RPI ranking is enough to impress the selection committee.
“I think if you look at our strength of schedule and RPI we’ve proven we belong,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “I wish my best friend was on that committee but I just have to leave it up to them.”
Although the Wildcats’ win was their third against Missouri this season, Kansas State coach Deb Patterson was outspoken Wednesday about her belief that Missouri should be invited to the NCAA Tournament.
“This Missouri team in my opinion is an NCAA caliber basketball team,” Patterson said. “They will beat a lot of basketball teams in the country, and I think with 17 wins in a league like ours they are a very legitimate consideration, I hope, for the NCAA Tournament, and I have all the confidence that they will go into the tournament and perform extremely well.”
Unfortunately for Missouri, Patterson’s comments have no effect on whether the Tigers will be invited to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past 18 years.
It will be somewhat of a slap in the face to the Big 12 if Missouri is not invited to the NCAA Tournament. The conference’s RPI ranking is second behind the Big 10 Conference and there are six Big 12 teams ranked in the top 19 of this week’s Associated Press poll.
Those six teams are virtually assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament and Big 12 coaches argued throughout the season the conference’s competitive nature should result in at least seven teams earning a chance to compete for the national championship.
Sending seven Big 12 teams to the NCAA Tournament is not unprecedented. The conference accomplished the feat in 2002.
Missouri came to the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 7 seed after finishing in a three-way tie for seventh in the Big 12 regular-season standings with Nebraska and Iowa State.
Of the three teams, Missouri is in the best position to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have won five of their past eight, played the toughest nonconference schedule of the three teams and beat Iowa State twice and split with Nebraska.
Like Missouri, Nebraska also has 17 wins, but the Huskers finished on a down note, losing five of six. Iowa State is 15-14 and likely headed to the WNIT.